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What is Mitella?

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  • Written By: Alex Tree
  • Edited By: Melissa Wiley
  • Last Modified Date: 11 November 2016
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Mitella is a genus of perennial flowering plants that belongs to the Saxifragales family. These plants are commonly referred to as miterwort or bishop’s cap. The majority of the species in this genus grow in moist meadows and forests. They are native to regions of extreme climate such as arctic North America, Europe, and certain parts of Asia.

The name Mitella was derived from the Greek word mitra, meaning little cap, which describes the appearance of the plant's flowers. Its blooms are small with four to five loosely fringed petals attached to a center, resembling a dome or a bishop’s headwear. Miterwort blossoms are shades of white, pink, and yellow and measure about 0.4 inches (0.6 cm) across. The flowers are widely spaced along the stalk, leaving the majority of the stem exposed.

Similar to all members of the Saxifragales family, miterworts also have five to 10 stamens within their system. The stalks of these plants are straight with fine hair-like follicles completely covering their structures. Two to three leaves that are about 2 inches (5 cm) long can be seen at the base of their stalks, which always grow symmetrically from the other. Growing symmetrical flowers and foliage is referred to as being actinomorphic, another commonality within the Saxifragales family.

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One common garden-variety species of these perennials is diphylla, known as the two-leaved miterwort. Its basal leaves consistently come in pairs; hence its common name. It has tiny white flowers that appear like specs of cotton balls from afar, coming in full bloom from April to May. A fully matured specimen is approximately 1.5 feet (5 m) in height.

A cavity containing the plant's seeds is left behind when the blossoms wither and fall off the bulb. Gushes of wind and rainfall serve as a medium for the transfer of the seeds to the ground, while certain species of bees and flies pollinate from the flowers. Mitella seeds develop into rhizomes, a process that is also common to Bermuda grass and fern plants. Its roots creep underground for the first two to three weeks before its first sprout can be seen on the soil’s surface.

The low-lying varieties of these plants can be used as carpet plants to cover barren areas of the garden instead of ordinary lawn grass. Perennials of this sort can easily adapt to dry soil. However, the pace of growth of these plants is slower compared to grass or other types of flowering carpet plants. The propagation of Mitella plants is possible through division and direct sowing.

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